A host of top-class duels will be resumed at the March 9 to 11 World Indoor Athletics Championships here as a taster of what lies in store at this summer's London Olympics.

One of the most eagerly-anticipated battles expected when action begins at the Atakoy Athletics Arena will be in the women's pentathlon between reigning champion Jessica Ennis and world outdoor champion Tatyana Chernova.

On paper the pair are fairly close in the five-eventer: Ennis tallied a 4937-point career best when taking the world title in Doha two years ago while the Russian, the bronze medallist in 2010, brings a 4855 best.

Chernova, however, holds the mental edge having unseated Ennis at the Daegu worlds, and vowed to continue to push herself.

Other key head-to-heads include American Bernard Lagat against Britain's Mohammed Farah in the 3000m. The Kenyan-born Lagat will be defending his title and seeking a third crown over the distance having also won in Budapest in 2004 when running for Kenya before taking U.S citizenship.

But Farah will pose some problems, having pushed Lagat into silver in the 5000m at the world outdoor in Daegu last year. The challenge Lagat and Farah will together face is the sheer strength of the field that includes world 5000m bronze medallist Dejen Gebremeskel of Ethiopia, and Kenyan pair Augustine Choge and Edwin Soi.

The men's 60m hurdles was deprived at the last minute of Cuban Dayron Robles, the defending champion and also Olympic 110m hurdles champion and world record holder, handing Chinese athletics star Liu Xiang a massive boost.

The 60m will feature two of the “bad boys” of men's sprinting: Briton Dwain Chambers, the defending title-holder, and American Justin Gatlin.

Both Chambers and Gatlin have served suspensions for doping, most recently the American 2004 Olympic 100m champion who is slowly coming back from a four-year ban.

Chambers, a former European 100m champion who was banned for two years in 2004, faces the prospect of defending his crown in the knowledge that he will not be able to appear at the London Olympics due to a British Olympic Association (BOA) ruling.

The sprint will, however, be missing Olympic 100m champion Usain Bolt, Asafa Powell as well as world 100m champion Yohan Blake who are all building to the London Games.

Two veterans will be battling to add another medal to their considerable indoor hauls, notably Ethiopia's Meseret Defar who will be chasing her fifth consecutive indoor gold medal at 3000m.

And a recent world indoor record of 5.01m has reinforced Yelena Isinbayeva's chances of winning her fourth indoor pole vault title following her setback two years ago in Doha.

“I worked really hard before the start of this season with the aim of recovering completely after all the troubles that followed me in the previous years,” said Isinbayeva, once considered untouchable in the discipline after an unmatched unbeaten streak. I was also set to become the world leader again and luckily I managed to do it (with a world record). Now I feel myself physically good and self-confident. I hope in Istanbul I will also be able to perform well.” — AFP

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